Answer to MBE Question From January 7th

(C)  is correct.


Issue: Whether the fisherman can recover against the repair shop for failing to discover the defect in the boat during its inspection.


Rule: For  a  claim  of  negligence,  a  plaintiff  must  prove  that  he  was  owed  a  duty  of  care  by  the  defendant, that the duty was breached, that the plaintiff suffered damages and that there was a causal link between the plaintiff’s injury and defendant’s breach. Generally, a professional person is held to a standard of conduct different than that of the reasonable person. A person who is a professional or has special skill (e.g. doctor, lawyer, airplane mechanic) is required to exercise the knowledge and skill of a member of  the  same  profession  in  similar communities. The professional must also use such superior knowledge and skills as he actually possesses.


Analysis:  Here,  the  facts  state  that  the  repair  shop  specialized  in  the  types  of  boats  that  the  fisherman  bought. This  created  a  special  relationship  in  which  the  fisherman  relied  upon  the  mechanic’s  superior  knowledge  and  skills. The  mechanic  is  thus  held  to  a  higher  standard  and,  under  the  facts  here,  should  have  discovered  the  defect. Because he  did  not  make  a  reasonable  inspection of the boat, the fisherman took the boat out with the defect remaining and crashed. The repair shop was negligent and now can be held liable for the fisherman’s injuries.


(C) is correct. The repair shop owed a duty to the fisherman to conduct a reasonable inspection of the boat.


(A) is incorrect. This is not the issue. Whether the boat was damaged before does not release the repair shop of liability for their negligence. The issue is whether the repair shop acted reasonably in conducting the inspection of the boat.


(B) is incorrect because it is irrelevant that the boat was used.  When the fisherman took it to the repair shop, it was the repair shop’s duty to find and correct defects.  The cause of such defects has no  effect  on  the  repair  shop’s  liability  if  the  defect  was  there  when  the  repair  shop  inspected  the  boat.


(D) is incorrect. The repair shop cannot be held liable under strict liability, only negligence. Strict liability  might  apply  to  the  supplier  or  manufacturer  for  selling  the  boat,  but  strict  liability  for  a  product  defect  is  not  available  with  regard  to  a  repair  shop  that  fails  to  uncover  the  defect.

(Remember that strict products liability is applicable when a product is sold to a consumer with a defect.  Strict liability is then imposed on the commercial supplier or the manufacturer if the product was  not  altered  and  if  the  defect  was  in  existence  when  the  product  was  in  the  hands  of  the  manufacturer).